Thomas Cosmades

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WILL SHINE LIKE THE STARS FOREVER

CHAPTER 34

 

HARDEN NOT YOUR HEARTS

Vahramís custom was to rise early in the morning, read the Bible and pray, and then go to the market where he would talk with people and sell books.  The fact that he knew very little Arabic did not deter him.  He would use every method to spread the Word of God: singing a hymn, playing the violin, using visual aids and speaking a few phrases in Arabic, such as, "Do not harden your heart, dear friend; repent and believe on Jesus Christ as Savior!"  Visiting hospitals, he would talk with the patients and inspire them with joy and hope.  Around Amman were nearly seventy villages ó some near, some far. Every day he would make his way to one of them.  The purpose of his visits was always the same -- to make the Savior known to the people.

It is said of the famous evangelist, D. L. Moody (1837-1899) that he spoke about Christ to at least one person each day.  As for Vahram, it is hard to speculate the number of people he dealt with daily.  His fellowship with the Lord was unbroken.  He would pray, receive fresh encouragement and go on to tell people about His salvation.  The Lord spoke to him again and again  with the words, "Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the LORD, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water" (Psalm l14:7, 8).  This clear declaration filled his soul with assurance and courage.  It was normal for him to receive such frequent encouragement from the Lord.

Visions that came from God have already been mentioned, also his being healed in answer to prayer.  On certain occasions his praying for the sick and their finding health has also been touched on.  But he along with the Apostle Paul would voice the testimony, "And to keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated" (II Corinthians 12:7).  Vahram laid no claims to uncommon power of healing, to a special position of receiving visions or extraordinary communication with God.  He was totally unpresumptuous.  His stance would have been desirable in our time when there is great emphasis on personal achievements and revelations in certain religious circles.

In Amman a four-year-old boy suddenly could not walk, or even stand.  He was constantly crying out in pain.  The doctors could not diagnose the affliction.  He was brought to Vahram, who laid hands on him and prayed in faith.  Giving glory to the name of Christ, he said, "Let him walk!" The Lord immediately healed him.  Vahram never talked about the incident.  Perhaps there were similar occurrences, but if there were, no one knew about them.

Calling sinners to repentance, Vahram often referred to Hebrews 3:7 and 8 and in this connection he often used a funny illustration: A man was once invited to an evangelistic meeting by close friends, which he finally accepted.  During the message he was agitated.  Not wanting to listen, he stuck his fingers in his ears.  Soon a fly settled on his nose, and instinctively he took his finger out of one ear to shoo the fly away.  At that very moment the speaker was repeating the Scripture, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness'."   At that instant, his sinful heart was pricked.  He listened to the rest of the message, repented and received Christ as Savior.  On another evening when Vahram was preaching, someone brought his brother along, who was known for his hard-heartedness.  During the meeting the man persisted in blatant rejection.  Suddenly he stood up and shouted, "This man is lying!"  Pandemonium ensued.  The man became more indignant.  "If I'm wrong, may God strike me!" he cried.  His brother wished the ground could have opened up and swallowed him, and he regretted a thousand times for ever bringing him along.

Home they went, the rebellious brother muttering to himself all the way.  Arriving at home he demanded in his usual harsh way, "Start the fire under the boiler! I'm going to have a bath.  Then I'll eat."  His mother complied.  But time passed and he failed to come out of the bathroom.  They banged on the door, and from inside they heard groaning.  Breaking open the bolted door, they entered and found him dying.  His believing family cried to God to spare his life.  He revived.  As soon as he came to, he gasped, "I want to repent; God truly did strike me.  Never again will I trifle with God."  That day in the bathroom his heart was opened to Christ, and he gained assurance that his sins were forgiven.

The next morning he went to the market-place and related to everyone what had happened, calling them to repentance.  "Do not harden your hearts," he said.  "I was stupidly resistant.  I was on the brink of going down into eternity still in my sins, but God pitied me.  And He will pity you, too, if you repent."  That night he went to the meeting and testified to the very people he had troubled the previous evening.  Now joyfully and fervently he declared, "God showed me that it's dangerous to ridicule Him, to open my mouth against Him.  Listen, God had mercy on a miserable man like me and extended his grace to me.  He saved me from death and from that which is worse than death, from hell itself! All thanks be to His name!"

An unsaved young man was married to a girl from a believing family.  He constantly ridiculed their faith and poked fun at the people who attended the meetings.  He went to a village outside Amman and found himself entering a meeting where Vahram was preaching.  After the message, testimonies were given, hymns sung and then the time for prayer came.  People stood up one after another and prayed.  After awhile he stood up and began, "Oh LordľĒ and stopped.  Someone else stood to pray, but he continued standing.  God granted him the spirit of repentance.  Still on his feet, he repented publicly and received assurance that his sins were forgiven.  He was totally changed.  After this he began to pray, full of faith.  In ensuing meetings he would pray two or three times.  His joyful testimony was that God had first convicted him of sin, then made him stand up and finally brought him to repentance.

Under the influence of the Holy Spirit the revival that started in Amman spread widely.  Even today after so many years older people still remember with praise and thanksgiving that great spiritual awakening.  Men and women who repented and came to Christ were afterwards baptised[1].  Heartfelt joy was evident at the baptisms.  Those who testified and were immersed in the waters of baptism prayed and gave glory to God for their salvation.  They knew that by this act they were giving witness to their passing from death to life.  People came to observe this ordinance with which they were totally unaccustomed.  Even some of these were convicted and turned to Jesus then and there.  The chain reaction was continuing under the control of the Holy Spirit.

Strangely, the evangelist himself had not been baptised as a believer.  He had undergone infant baptism at the Armenian Gregorian church. Finally the hour had arrived for Vahram to enter the waters of baptism.  It was Leroy Whitman, an English missionary, who baptised him in the Jordan River. He was one of the men instrumental in promoting Vahramís ministries in the land.  Vahram remembered this as one of the happy occasions of his life.  And another happy occasion was the service of his ordination. Leroy Whitman was among several pastors who examined and laid their hands on him in a solemn ordination service.  Those who remember that day tell how Vahramís face was shining.  Naturally, Vahram had been ordained long before by his Lord while in Istanbul.  He had already been blessed with an effective ministry for many years.  Ordination by his Lord was what counted.


 

  [1] cf. Matthew 28:18-20 and Romans 6:4, 4.

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